STARKVILLE, Miss. - Freshman Danielle Ballard stole the show, scoring a game-high 19 points with seven rebounds and four steals as the LSU women's basketball team turned in its best defensive effort of the season in a 63-41 blowout of Mississippi State on Sunday in Humphrey Coliseum.
The Lady Tigers (15-10, 6-6 SEC) claimed back-to-back Southeastern Conference wins for the first time this season and in the process topped the Lady Bulldogs for the seventh consecutive time dating back to the 2009 season.
LSU moved back to .500 in the league standings and could possibly move into a tie for sixth place depending on the outcome of Sunday evening's Vanderbilt-Tennessee game. Vanderbilt entered Sunday's play with a 6-5 SEC record.
Mississippi State dropped to 11-14 overall and 3-9 in conference play.
Ballard, playing in front of dozens of family members who made the drive from Memphis, disrupted the Lady Bulldogs with her quickness on the perimeter. She finished 7-of-9 from the floor and produced her highest scoring output since putting in 24 points in the SEC opener on Jan. 3. With her four steals on Sunday, Ballard moved into third place in LSU freshman steals with 78. She inched closer to Joyce Walker's freshman record of 86 in 1980-81.
"She (Ballard) showed the type of player that she is today," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "Her stat line across the board, from getting steals to grabbing rebounds, was very positive. She was instrumental for us on the defensive end."
Adrienne Webb scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half made 7-of-7 from the free throw line for LSU, which finished an efficient 17-of-21 from the line. Theresa Plaisance added 14 points, a career-high three three-pointers, three blocks and two steals. Jeanne Kenney dished out six assists.
LSU set the tone with its physical defensive play inside, none bigger than the inspired play of Shanece McKinney. McKinney, making her fourth straight start, scored five points and blocked a career-high five shots. She took the SEC's top rebounder and Mississippi State's top scorer, Martha Alwal, away from her inside game. Alwal was held scoreless for the second time this SEC season, and she managed only one rebound.
"Shanece McKinney continues to step up to the challenge" said Caldwell. "Her low-post defense set the tone for us. Once the ball did go inside, we stayed between them and the basket. Alwal is a great player, and today, McKinney did a great job."
The Lady Tigers quickly built on a 28-25 halftime lead when Webb scored the first five points of the second half for LSU highlighted by an old-fashioned three-point play. Plaisance stepped up and hit a three from the top of the key, and on the ensuing possession she found Webb cutting to the lane for a lay-up. The Lady Tigers accounted for their first double-digit lead, 40-29, with 15:51 to play.
A 17-3 run put the game away as Plaisance again buried a trey. Bianca Lutley stole an inbound pass and then fired it to Ballard for an easy transition layup. Meanwhile, LSU's defense held MSU to only one field goal in a seven-minute span that saw the lead grow to 20. MSU was out-scored 35-16 in the final 20 minutes.
"We able to make a run and that gave us the momentum that we needed," said Caldwell. "The week we had prior to coming to Mississippi State helped us prepare for today's game. We knew that was going to be a tough week for us, and we knew we could play with some of the best teams in the country."
The Lady Tigers out-rebounded their third consecutive opponent and held MSU to 24.6 percent shooting for the game, the lowest by an opponent against LSU this season. The Lady Bulldogs shot 18.8 percent in the second half to LSU's 52.6 percent.
The Lady Tigers hit the road again for their first trip to Missouri for an 8 p.m. CT tip Thursday in Columbia. The contest will be televised by Fox Sports Net Southwest and it can be viewed online at ESPN3.com or the Watch ESPN App on tablets.